Gluten-free trend hits home at Woodberry Kitchen
Many restaurants have gluten-free menu items these days, but Woodberry Kitchen has an exceptionally good reason for catering to the gluten-free crowd: the chef's wife has Celiac Disease.
Amy Gjerde, who co-owns Woodberry with husband Spike, had trained as a pastry chef and baked for his earlier restaurant ventures before the disease struck. The birth of the couple's second child, in 2002, apparently triggered it, she said.
"It was quite a shock," she said. "I had seizures and everything."
Her illness has influenced Woodberry's menu "hugely," she said.
The menu highlights conventional items that are, by their nature, free of gluten. It also lists dishes that can be made gluten free with a few tweaks, such as substituting French fries or vegetables for a potato gratin side containing flour. The restaurant always has gluten-free bread on the premises. (It's not baked in house because it needs to be made in a flour-free environment, she said. It comes from Tenzo Artisan in Frederick.)
"We really spend a lot of time training our staff and talking about the different allergies and not making someone feel like they're asking too much to ask the chef [a question] or change something around," she said.
Doctors initially told Amy she couldn't even be in the same room with flour. But once she eliminated gluten from her diet, and her body started healing, her sensitivity lessened. She has even started baking again for her family. She has tried some gluten-free baking, but so far, "it hasn't taken my interest yet as much as the traditional baking.
"I still enjoy using those ingredients and making the traditional recipes of my mother and grandmother," she said.
One of her specialties, the item she most misses now that she doesn't eat gluten: black raspberry crumb pie. She makes the crust with lard, as her grandma did.
"That's probably the biggest thing I miss," she said. "That and biscuits."
Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum